Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Late Works...

...is a small free exhibition that opened this month at the National Gallery showing artworks by the late Richard Hamilton (1922-2011), primarily from the last decade of his life. Here's some of my favourites...

For Design for 'The Artists Eye' exhibition poster (1978) (below) Hamilton uses a print of Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) and places an unfinished modern canvas on an easel in the foreground. I like the way paint seems to drip down from that canvas out of the picture onto the white border framing it.


In Lobby (1985-7) (below) beautifully detailed reflections are visible on the clean and clinical mirrored glass pillars in the centre and right of the picture.


A great contrast is created in Bathroom Fig 1 II (below) between the blurred figure in motion in the foreground and the clean, sharp lines and flat colours all around her.

Hamilton created different surface textures in Bathroom Fig 2 II (2005-6) (below), especially in the bottom half of the picture.


As can be seen in other works on display, Hamilton sometimes painted onto prints of photographs. The impeccably painted artist in the foreground of Portrait of a Woman as an Artist (2007) (below) is another example of this.




Bronze and beautiful!

The Royal Academy's current ticketed exhibition, Bronze, displays a huge variety of sculptures dating from approximately 4,500 BCE to Anish Kapoor's Untitled created this year. Rather than chronologically the show is arranged in themed rooms, such as Figures, Animals, Objects, etc. This creates a refreshing juxtaposition of artworks, so they have a Ming Dynasty figure in between an Auguste Rodin and a Willem de Kooning for example.

As the work spans over 6,000 years of excellent craftmanship and attention to detail there are many incredible artworks on display, although it was those from the Twentieth Century that stood out most for me. Here's a selection of my favourites...

As you enter the second room, David Smith's Portrait of a Painter (1954) (below) looks down on the visitor. I like the artists palette that the painter has for his/her head!

Borrowed from the Tate (Modern) collection, Umberto Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913, cast 1972) (below) is a famous example of Futurist sculpture. In this case capturing a strong and powerful human figure in motion.


Alberto Giacometti's The Cage (1st version) (1950) (below) shows the artist for what he is probably most well known for: tall, spindly figures which have Giacometti's finger marks still visible on the cast bronze.

As I entered the fifth room of the show, this giant spider appears to be climbing up the wall! Its Spider IV (1996) by Louise Bourgeois, who created a series of them. This one below is actually a small one in comparison to the gigantic one's displayed in and outside Tate Modern in the past.

Finally, Pablo Picasso's Baboon and Young (1951) (below) is a witty example of the way he often mixed found objects in his sculptures, such as the toy car he used here to cast the top half of the baboons face. 


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Victorian avant-garde?

Alongside the Turner Prize, Tate Britain's other current ticketed exhibition is the Pre-Raphaelites show that presents the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) as an avant-garde movement. I feel that this is an attempt by Tate to re-package a movement that they have had in the form of ticketed exhibitions in the past and that contains many works already from the Tate collection. When the accompanying guide states: "boldly original in style and conception, the Pre-Raphaelites made a profound contribution to the history of modern art," they dont explain how and this perhaps should be a describtion of the slightly later Impressionist movement?

They describe the many industrial, scientific and artistic changes that happened in the second half of the 19th Century, but not how "Pre-Raphaelite art distilled the energy of the world's first industrial society into striking new forms." Arguably it was the Italian Futurist movement who did this early in the 20th Century, admittedly when these changes had developed further still. I understand that the PRB considered their contemporary art as decadent, but by looking to art before Raphael for inspiration for their artistic style is not new or experimental. Neither is using for their subject matter themes that are taken from Shakespeare, the Bible, landscapes or the view from a window, however much they slightly developed any of the above.

I bow down to the fact that the curators undoubtedly have far more knowledge of the movement than me, but why not present the PRB movement for what they were based on their work? Many of the paintings on display do themselves provide evidence that they were a group of technically accomplished artists who created aesthetically pleasing artworks whether or not they were using classic subject matter or traditional painting genre's. They produced romanticised art which dealt with age-old subject matter, such as love, death, rejection, class and mythology.

Perhaps that would decrease potential visitor numbers and some may argue why shouldnt they look at art with a fresh curatorial perspective? So having said all that, I'll probably sound pedantic when I list my favourite paintings in this exhibition below that I really enjoyed seeing again!

Previously in the Romantics exhibition and taken from Tate Britain's collection, Henry Wallis' impeccably painted Chatterton (1855-6) (below) shows a young poet on his death-bed having commited suicide following repeated rejections from publishers. One of the most romantic yet tragic stories told in the artworks on display.


John Everett Millais Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (1849-50)

I always admire the soft style with which John Everett Millais painted Ophelia (1852) (below).


When looking closely at these 2 paintings by William Dyce you can see the incredible detail, such as the individually painted blades of grass. Pegwell Bay, Kent - a recollection of October 5th (1858) is above & The Man of Sorrows (1860) below.

I like Work (1852-63) by Ford Madox Brown (below) because its one of those paintings that are busy with various different people doing things, some more honestly than others! In this way it reminds me of a painting by William Powell Frith, The Derby Day (1856-8), thats in Tate Britain's Historic Collection.

I've included William Holman Hunt's The Children's Holiday (1864) because I like the stylised faces and the incredibly well painted silver on the left hand side of the painting.

In Isabella and the pot of basil (1866-68) William Holman Hunt expresses his incredible technical ability, such as in the way he painted the folds in the fabrics, the reflection on the furniture from the watering can and in Isabella's face.

Every page is like a work of art in William Morris' prints in this publication of The works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1896).

Edward Burne-Jones' The Golden Stairs (1880) is one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite paintings in terms of its detail, the ladies stylised faces and the great use of colour. 

The next three paintings by Edward Burne-Jones use as their inspiration Greek mythology, specifically Perseus slaying Medusa (the Gorgon) in order to rescue Andromeda from the Kraken.

The Rock of Doom (1885-1888), Edward Burne-Jones

The Doom Fullfilled (1885), Edward Burne-Jones

The Baleful Head (1886-7), Edward Burne-Jones

Noble favourite

In this year's Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain, my favourite of the 4 shortlisted artists is Paul Noble. Shortlisted because of his drawings of the fictional city of Nobson Newtown shown at the Gagosian Gallery, Noble's works on display here start with a word. He then draws around this word to create landscapes with strange biomorphic shapes contrasting with structures that appear to be man-made. When walking round looking at these works, it was like a game to see if you can spot where in each piece this starting point is.

In Villa Joe (Front View) (2005-6) (below) there's an obvious nod to Henry Moore with some of the shapes in the landscape being very similiar to Moore's sculptures. These include a drawing of Three Points (1939-40), which is part of the Tate Collection.

Some of these organic shapes in the drawings on the walls are then transformed into three dimensions by sculptures in the middle of the room. The photo below of a detail from (Large) TREV (2012) shows one of the contrasting 'man-made' structures.

Noble's drawing Lidonob (2000) is still on display in the A Walk Through the Twentieth Century galleries at Tate Britain.


Faces and Figures...

...is the title of the current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery that focuses on portraiture by Thomas Schutte, including sculpture, photography and paintings by the German artist.

On the walk through Hyde Park to the gallery I saw this sculpture across The Long Water/Serpentine lake. It reminds me a little of a Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth.

Outside the south side of the gallery are these (patinated bronze) sculptures (below), United Enemies (2011).

As the sun begins to set, it casts great shadows across them and the grass.

As with the United Enemies sculptures outside, I like the weathered effect on the (patinated) bronze below. This artwork, Memorial for Unknown Artist (2011), also has that effect on its steel base too.

Vater Staat (Father State) (2010) has a similiar effect, albeit more rusty, on its steel surface.

I like the character that some of Schutte's ink and pencil drawings (on paper) have, such as this one from the Mirror Drawings (1998-99) series.


Last week to see...

...the Eley Kishimoto Living With Patterns exhibition at The Aram Gallery on Drury Lane in Covent Garden. The King and Queen of fashion print express how they have become surface designers too in this small interesting show.

I like the way the exhibition has been curated with fabric walls between the different rooms. These are 'flash' lace panels woven by MYB Textiles, which also adorn some of the windows in the Aram (furniture) store below the gallery.
This is the exhibition entrance (below), with a brief view of the Flash Gnomes inside.

According to the exhibition guide, these Flash Gnomes (below) "welcome you to the print on print world of Eley Kishimoto."

The Narumi ceramics (below) are the result of the Japanese bone china manufacturer and Eley Kishimoto collaborating on Narumi's 10th anniversary Styles range.

I really like the way they curated this room with just one pair of shoes displayed using this machine that walks them round in a perpetual circle.

That pair and these shoes below are the result of another collaboration, this time with Clarks. They feature Eley Kishimoto's Flash and Cute Boys prints.

Ofcourse no Eley Kishimoto show could be without printed womenswear, with my favourite 2 dresses below from the In Shape range.

The next 3 photos below are my favourite piece's in the room of Moorcraft pottery. These are traditional ceramics that have been handpainted with Eley Kishimoto designs.


I like the oriental feel of the 2 above and the fact that the one below reminds me of a few of the paintings in the Futurism exhibition at Tate Modern in 2009.